Online retailer Forward by Elyse Walker and the Council of Fashion Designers of America have linked to launch the CFDA & Forward Rising Talent Retail Program, in which Walker, her buying team and partners Mike Mente and Mike Karanikolas of will mentor up-and-coming luxury fashion designers with retail strategies as well as guiding them in the development of exclusive capsule collections for Forward.

Designers Juan Carlos Obando, Erin Beatty and Max Osterweis of Suno and Veronica Miele Beard and Veronica Swanson Beard of Veronica Beard were hand-selected by both parties for the inaugural program, a two-day workshop in Los Angeles on best practices across various verticals through a retail market lens to achieve the next stage of growth. There will be a celebratory cocktail party Tuesday in Los Angeles at the Lombardi House.

“Forward has always been a champion of emerging designers, and with the current shake-ups in the fashion industry, from e-commerce and fast fashion to social shopping, it’s a challenging time for early talent to achieve that critical next stage in their growth,” said Walker, fashion director of Forward. “We really care how their brands are evolving and want to sit back outside the hustle and bustle of fashion week to talk about what each of our brands means to us, where we’re going and how we can overlap. Hopefully this will be the first of many.”

Forward buying director April Koza said her team worked with designers to develop the spring 2016 capsules tailored to the Forward customer, which are more than just an existing style in a new color — the exclusive collections will be merchandised as companions to the designers’ core collections on the site.

Obando designed sexy minidresses in his colorful silks; Veronica Beard has three jackets, one of which is lined with a denim dickey, and Suno used archival prints in key Forward silhouettes such as the mididress and the casual top.

Koza said she planned to teach the designers the importance of seasonality and making sure deliveries matched the more immediate shopping cycle, as well as making sure each new collection evolves.

The partnership was formed a year-and-a-half ago after Steven Kolb met with Mente and Karanikolas. “Elyse has always been trailblazer with advanced contemporary and luxury brands. This program is unique in that they are getting retail expertise and a commitment with open to buy and wholesale dollars. To be able to have the connection and increase their sell-through outside the partnership is an amazing opportunity for our members,” said Ashley Sandall, CFDA’s senior manager of strategic partnerships.

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